The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Shifting Perspectives

Posted on | August 30, 2010 | Written by Josh Rubenstein | No Comments

I recently finished Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw,” a collection of his essays from The New Yorker. This collection focuses mainly on perspective—the other perspective.  In the titular piece, Gladwell examines why a feisty dog may be calm for one person and uncontrollable for another.  He writes his essay by looking not at the owner’s but the dog’s own experience to help us understand how we can better relate and communicate. In this way, Gladwell flips perspective from the customary to the unordinary, or what I have called “the other” perspective.

Prompted by this unusual article, I took Gladwell’s line of examination and applied it to wine. I think it’s fair to say that a vineyard will react differently to the different people who care for it.  I look at the producers who work with biodynamic wines, and I can tell you that those winemakers are obsessive about their relationship not only with the vineyard but also with everything and everyone surrounding the vineyard.

This holistic sense must be what Movia’s Aleš Kristancic means when he talks about capturing the positive energy of “happy chickens” who “wear sunshine glasses and smoke Marlboros.” It’s Aleš’ surprising, yet very effective, way of saying that everything we put into our bodies brings an energy with it. If we can nurture positive energy, we will receive the benefits, and if we’re cultivating grapes, this positive energy means that we’re honoring the vineyard and its surroundings as we grow. Further caring for all things around the vineyard explains how Aleš’ Sauvignon Blanc offers Mojito-like levels of mint on the nose, along with generous basil. It’s what grows around the vineyard, and it becomes part of the terroir.

As a typical skeptic, I’m a bit surprised to find myself to be writing about transfers of energy and happy chickens—writing about a vineyard’s being a living thing with its own fickle personality feels like describing the fictional island on Lost. However, my positive experiences, visiting local herbalists when sick here in Hong Kong, as opposed to using only western medicines, as well as undergoing some tremendous Chinese tea crash courses have supported my growing interest in all things natural. I suppose you could see it as a change in geography causing a change in perspective.

That said, I don’t see myself making any massive life changes; for example, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll give up McDonalds and go vegan anytime soon. But my conversations with Aleš, my remedies from my herbalist in Aberdeen, and my exposure to Gladwell’s “other perspective” have certainly given me plenty of reason to be more open minded about the vineyard, the producers, and those unusual perspectives. And, above all, it’s helped me appreciate how the great winemakers are often the most considerate communicators with nature, happy chickens and all.


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